All My Soul, Psalm 103
Verse 1 “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name”
David, in this Psalm, writes not only to bless countless readers who will throughout time read his inspired writings, he here talks to himself as well. “Like the psalmist, I am learning the indispensability of self-talk. My fears talk to me all day, and so the truth must also. Someone once said, ‘What would you do to a friend who lied to you as often as your fears have?’ Indeed” (An Insomniac’s Psalm 103, Andree Seu). At the outset David has set the tone for how he will follow God, “all that is within me”, or, “Everything I must do I will do” (Seu). Does this sound intense? It should. True love always is.
Verse 2 “Forget none of His benefits”
And this works! “Anyone who has tried it knows that to take a half hour walk thanking God for everything you can think of brings you home in a much better state of mind than a half hour of your mind left to its usual devices” (Seu). “The Psalmist isn’t telling us not to forget God’s benefits because it’s impolite. He’s telling us not to forget God’s benefits because it’s deadly (Psalm 78:9-11; Romans 1:21). After all, all we have to go on as our encouragement in this present day’s troubles is the record of God’s faithfulness in yesterday’s troubles. And not only our own yesterdays, but other people’s yesterdays. That’s why fellowship is crucial (Hebrews 10:25)” (Seu). We need to hear about the great things that God has done in the lives of others as well (Luke 8:39).
Verse 3 “Who pardons all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases”
Now the writer starts to list a number of “benefits”. One incredibly huge benefit is forgiveness. David is not saying that all the diseases we catch are the direct result of some sin in our lives, yet it is noteworthy that there is a connection. Sin does bring disease and the unrepentant, the angry, and the bitter often can make themselves sick. It makes one wonder how many diseases would no longer exist on this planet if everyone lived like a Christian.
Verse 4 “Who redeems your life from the pit”
Often the pit from which God delivered us, was a pit of our own making (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Verse 5 “Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle”
In remembering all of God’s benefits we need to accurately remember the past. Amid the struggles, God has given us so many good things through the years, even when we were not serving Him (Acts 14:17). Sit down some time and make a list of all the things that have gone well in your life, and you will see the “good things” over the years (James 1:17). And those who view the past in this way, tend to mount up and rise above the skepticism and cynicism of the age. Instead of being fearful, angry or discouraged, they are strong like eagles.
Verse 6 “And judgments for all who are oppressed”
“He specializes in great reversals (1 Peter 5:6). I find I never envy godless people or pity godly people because I’ve lived long enough to see the other shoe drop. The enemy encircles, but a zone of blessings and favor is carved out of the midst of it. This zone follows us everywhere, so that we lie down in green pastures and by still waters amidst the ruckus (Psalm 23:2, 5) (Jesus snoozed in a boat on a stormy sea)” (Seu).
Verse 7 “He made known His ways to Moses”
One thing that God showed Moses, and that He shows us in using Moses, is that God can even use people who “think” they are not up to the task or talented enough. Moses pleads inability and lack of sufficient qualifications (Exodus 4:10-13), and God uses Him anyway. God can even use “timid people with a low self-image to do great things” (Seu).
Verse 8 “Abounding in lovingkindness (steadfast love)”
Observe how many times “we” in are these verses that talk about God’s greatness. “God describes His very essence in terms of His relationship to us. He is ‘merciful’. Surely there is no need of mercy within the Godhead, for the Father, Son, and Spirit never do anything condemnable that one should need to exercise mercy… How marvelously condescending is our God, that He should allow a song of praise about Himself to be ‘contaminated’, as it were, by mentions of us in every single verse – like a series of photos of Buckingham Place in which some cheeky tourist has managed to stick his head or a toe into every frame” (Seu). God is so merciful, that one prophet actually complained about it (Jonah 4:2-3). When I read such passages I say to myself, “Wow, a person really does have to labor at resisting God’s truth and His salvation”.
Verse 9 “He will not always strive with us; nor will He keep His anger forever”
“I grew up in a house where there may as well been a verse over the mantel warning the opposite of verse 9: ‘Here we will always chide, and we will keep our anger forever’. The one-day grudge was the most fortunate. More typically doled out was the two-or three-or four-day grudge. The implacable silent treatment. But God is not like the women in my family tree. He does not delight to keep stoking His anger. His anger is moved by repentance rather than enflamed by it” (Seu). What God is saying is that He cannot stay angry with someone who is humble and honest. Repentance always will move Him. Even the wicked king Manasseh found forgiveness (2 Kings 21:9,16; 2 Chronicles 33:19). Unbelievers often complain that the God revealed in the Bible has an anger problem – makes one wonder what they have been reading? Actually, the real person with an anger problem is the unbeliever. God is always wanting to forgive and experience the joy of reconciliation with the sinner – it is the sinner who often refuses to give up their anger against God. “Such is the insanity of sin” (Seu).
Verse 10 “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities”
“If I thought that God dealt with me according to what I deserve, I would never pray. There is nothing on the list of things I pray for that I deserve. I pray for my kids to turn out well and to be saved, even though they grew up in a sham of a Christian house. I pray for my daily bread, even though I blew off my youthful opportunities to learn a trade that would help me earn my bread. I pray for health, though I have been a poor steward of my body in the past” (Seu). Even when we are down and humble we might say something like, “Well, I guess I got what I deserved”. This verse says, “No, God was merciful”. Even the sinner has not really experienced what they truly deserve.
Verse 11 “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those that fear Him”
“But if God’s love is so big – and He is so earnest to communicate how big it is – why do I keep thinking I’m just about to get the boot? How can I insult Him so? Do I think so highly of myself as to imagine that I’m the only person on earth that the gospel isn’t going to work for? I’ve finally done it: I’ve finally committed a sin that’s more powerful than Jesus’ blood!” (Seu). Christians are well aware of the sins they have committed and when reminded of that past, they will call it what it was, “evil”. Yet at the same time, such people refuse to dwell on the past. Have you observed how many times David has talked about God’s lovingkindness or steadfast love? Yes, it is conditional – for those who stand in awe of Him, who take His word seriously.
Verse 12 “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us”
“How far is east from west? About as far as yes is from no, I supposed, or guilty from innocent. Or as far as future is from past. They can give each other a good chase, but they will never catch each other. If you were trying to encourage a fearful soul to understand that he is forgiven, if you are dealing with someone given to serial relapses into self-incrimination what would you say to him? God bends over backwards; He multiplies metaphors till one of them works for you” (Seu). If the idea of east from west doesn’t work for you, how about this one:
“Yes, Thou will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).
Your sin will be forgiven like the goat whose head the high priest Aaron laid both his hands on it and confessed over it everything he could think of – then he took the beast to another man, who led it into the wilderness, never to return (Leviticus 16:20-28)
Or, how about this one. Picture yourself standing before God, covered in filth with Satan accusing you – and making a good case, and then… Surprise! The angel of the Lord doesn’t rebuke you, he rebukes Satan, and then has you clothed in pure garments (Zechariah 3).
“Can you dare to live as a forgiven person? Will you not take sides with God’s evaluation of yourself over your own self-evaluation? Would it be humility or treachery to continue to whine about your guilt?” (Seu). Indeed, it is a great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). Let’s enjoy it!